YORKTOWN, Va. (WAVY) — An 85-year-old man lost $5,000 earlier this month after scammers tricked him into believing his granddaughter was locked up for reckless driving.
Walter, who didn’t want to disclose his last name, says he believed the false story because the scammers knew his granddaughter’s name when they called.
The York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office says they’ve received several similar reports in recent weeks of people working together over the phone to steal residents’ hard-earned cash.
“I answered, ‘Hello?’ She said, ‘This is your granddaughter.’ It seemed so real. She said, ‘Can you help me?’”
Walter says he wasn’t wearing his hearing aids when he got the call Oct. 6. The woman, posing as his granddaughter, told him she was charged with reckless driving after hitting an off-duty police officer with a cell phone in her hand.
“I was just worried about my granddaughter and taking care of her, because when one of the family needs help, it’s just money,” he said.
A second scammer, acting as a public defender, got on the phone next asking for $2,000 bail.
Walter says he quickly followed all the steps to get them the cash for his granddaughter to be released from jail. He left his home a couple minutes later and went to Toys “R” Us to purchase four $500 iTunes gift cards. He returned home and called the scammers, who instructed him to give them the numbers off the back of the gift cards.
After the first transaction, the woman posing as a public defender asked Walter for $3,000 more to cover the officer’s medical expenses.
“I went back [to Toys “R” Us]. I bought six [more] cards … and put them on my credit card,” he said.
It took about a week of doubts before Walter says he called his son, who told him he got swindled. He then contacted authorities.
Walter says it will likely take him about a year to pay off the debt, but he hopes speaking out about his losses will prevent another victim from being targeted.
“I know I am not the first. I know I am not the last,” he said. “I feel right now bitter toward the individual that did the scam.”
Deputies say to call your local law enforcement agency if you doubt the legitimacy of any phone call. They also advise gift cards will never be accepted as a form of payment for any fines.